Notorious serial killers, spine-tingling writers, historical figures with frightening pasts, or even politicians who find themselves in something much more sinister than just your average corruption. Historical horror combines fictional horror with a bit of a non-fictional setting. Dying to dig your claws into a horrific page turning masterpiece? From a tale about Chicago’s most notorious serial killer to a president you believed you already knew everything about, be prepared to sink your teeth into five of the best historical horror novels ever written!
By Erik Larson
Most are familiar with Chicago’s most notorious serial killer H.H. Holmes, but are you familiar with how it all started? Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, published in 2003, is a non-fictional novel that is divided into four parts and two connecting plots. The beginning three parts take place within the years spanning from 1890 to 1893, but the fourth part focuses on the character and famous serial killer H.H. Holmes, and his decent into murder.
What is particularly unique about this novel is Larson’s ability to provide the reader with both the perspective of protagonist and detective Frank Geyer and perspective of antagonist H.H. Holmes. Are you ready to enter into the mind of the Devil in the White City?
By Elizabeth Kostova
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, published in 2005, intertwines three different plots in order to complete the entire story regarding the quest for Dracula. In this novel, a teenage girl stumbles upon an ancient journal and several letters inside her father’s library. When she confronts her father about her findings, he decides to confide in her about the disappearance of his professor shortly after believing that a once upon a time ruler and rumored to be Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, was still alive. Within the three plots, multiple characters search to find the truth about what really happened, where their loved ones have disappeared to, and most importantly who and where is Dracula.
Although a fictional tale, this novel reflects extensive research into historical, literary, and political truths that have shaped both the image of Dracula and that of Vlad the Impaler.
By Maggie Prince
The House on Hound Hill, written by Maggie Prince, published in 1996, is a young adult novel set in London. The story follows a young girl named Emily as she moves into a new house in the neighborhood of Hound Hill. Emily begins to experience symptoms of the black plague; an illness that hasn’t claimed any victims in years. Prince transports readers between time periods in this vivid novel full of suspense and history. The Black Plague has never before been sinisterly romanticized in such a way!
By Susan Hill
The next novel on this list is selected for it’s clever feministic flare. Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black, published in 1983, follows the story of Arthur Kipps, a junior lawyer, who is assigned to travel to Eel Marsh, where he will take care of deceased Alice Drablow affairs.
The events in this story revolve around the horrific events that results in the death of children. Kipps witnesses many of these tragedies and he begins to uncover secrets about Drablow. Set in the 1980’s, Hill exaggerates the anxieties woman faced relating to motherhood during that time period and exposed hypocrisy that a single mother faced during the Victorian era. The house also holds its own history, for it was the last house poet John Dryden ever resided in.
By Seth Grahame-Smith
Honest Abe, ever wonder how he became so honest? Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, written by Seth Grahame-Smith, published in 2010, begins with Abraham Lincoln’s early life and continues through his adulthood. Young Abe lost his mother to a horrible death inflicted by vampire Jack Barts. Abe sets out to revenge her death and in the process meets character Henry Sturges, who teaches Abe the ropes to becoming a great vampire hunter.
Abe also meets other historical characters along the way including Jack Armstrong, and Edgar Allan Poe. For those who love history, action, horror, and vampires, this is definitely something to sink your teeth into!